The Maldives gained independence from the British in 1965. Two years later, in 1967, Japan and the Maldives established diplomatic relations, making it one of the first and, by now, one of the oldest bilateral relationships in the country.
Earlier this month, on November 14, 2022, the two countries celebrated the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih sent greetings to the Japanese Emperor H.M. Naruhito and thanked Japan for being “one of the Maldives’ most steadfast and reliable development partners.” The Maldives President also praised Japan for its "immense contribution to the Maldives' social and economic progress" and reiterated the significant changes brought about by the Japanese government.
In a separate message to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, President Solih also stated that Maldives-Japan relations had flourished over the decades “due to the common commitment to democracy, peace, and human rights.”
In 1987, a massive storm surge hit and flooded large portions of the Maldives, significantly damaging the infrastructure in Malé. Maldives requested emergency assistance from Japan as well as assistance in preventing similar disasters in the future. The Japanese government immediately accepted, and a coastal protection project commenced within a year through Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) and continued until 2002. The six-kilometer-long breakwater around the capital Malé that we see today was built with the assistance of the Japanese government.
Maldives has assisted the Japanese government in its own special way too. The island nation provided a total of 86,400 tuna cans as relief supplies following the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. In addition to this, support campaigns were held in the Maldives, where a total of MVR 7 million in donations was gathered from the Maldivian people, and another 600,000 tuna cans were gifted to Japan.
Former President of Maldives Maumoon Abdul Gayoom visited Japan four times during his presidency between 1984 and 2001. Former President Abdulla Yameen also met with the late Shinzo Abe, the former Prime Minister of Japan, in 2014. In October 2019, incumbent President Solih visited Japan for the enthronement ceremony of Emperor Naruhito.
in 2007, Maldives opened its embassy in Tokyo, while Japan opened its embassy in Malé City in 2016.
Japan extended emergency aid to the Maldives on December 27, 2004 after the devastating Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that resulted in the loss of lives and massive property damage across the country. The Japanese government reportedly assisted Maldives with relief aid totaling JPY 9.7 million. Japan also provided tents, blankets, electric generators, plastic jerry cans in addition to portable water tanks.
On December 28, 2004, the Japanese government confirmed the decision to dispatch the Japan Disaster Relief Medical Team to the Maldives to provide humanitarian assistance to the victims of the deadly disaster.
The Japanese assistance did not stop there; on January 11, 2005, still in the aftermath of the tsunami, Japan’s government announced it would dispatch the Japan Disaster Relief Expert Team, composed of ten members, on January 16 to Sri Lanka and Maldives.
Japan has been an ally on Maldives’ road to democracy as well. On October 3, 2008, the Japanese government confirmed it would be dispatching an election observer mission from October 7–9 of the crucial election year in an effort to contribute to a free and fair presidential election in the Maldives. The mission comprised three members, which included Mr. Kaoru Shimazaki, the Minister of the Japanese Embassy in Sri Lanka at the time.
After the election, Mr. Nobuhide Minorikawa, the then Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, visited the Maldives to attend the official inauguration ceremony of the Maldivian President, Mohamed Nasheed, who won the country’s first-ever multiparty election.
Similar to its participation as an observer in the 2008 presidential election, Japan confirmed that an election observer mission would be deployed from September 5-8, 2013, to ensure impartial election procedures. Mr. Hideki Ishizuka, the Deputy Head of the Japanese Embassy in Sri Lanka at the time, led this mission.
The two countries celebrated the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2017. A series of events were planned to commemorate the milestone and “deepen the existing positive relationship between the two countries,” according to the Maldivian government.
Mr. Wataru Takeshita, a member of the House of Representatives of Japan and the President of the Japan-Maldives Parliamentary Friendship League, visited Maldives as the Special Envoy of then Prime Minister the late Shinzo Abe to attend the inauguration of the incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
During President Solih’s visit to Japan in October 2019, the late Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a Japan-Maldives Summit Meeting with the President. During the meeting, Abe welcomed the Maldivian President and noted that the Maldives was "an important partner for Japan" and that the country intended to "strengthen the collaboration with the Maldives in coordination with the US and India."
Abdulla Shahid, Maldives Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the President of 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) visited Japan on the invitation of Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. During his visit, Shahid made a courtesy call on Mr. Suga Yoshihide, the Prime Minister of Japan and met with Mr. Motegi Toshimitsu, his Japanese counterpart.
The Embassy of Maldives in Japan celebrated the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The event was held at Minato Blossom Festa from November 12–13, 2022. Maldives was promoted at the event as a tourism destination for the visitors. The event was attended by the Maldivian Ambassador to Japan, Mr. Hassan Sobir, who expressed gratitude to the government and people of Japan for "their commitment and kindness throughout the journey of the development of Maldives."